Pierce wins state literary award


Catherine Pierce

As co-director of Mississippi State's creative writing program, assistant professor Catherine Pierce already knows how to create literary works that speak to readers.

A group of her peers agrees and recently awarded the university's English department faculty member with the 2013 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters' Poetry Award. The honor recognized Pierce's second full-length collection of poems, "The Girls of Peculiar."

The 80-page book, published by Pennsylvania-based Saturnalia Books in 2012, addresses adolescence in lyric form, Pierce said.

"I tried to represent the age fairly and accurately, just exploding the idea of nostalgia -- what it can do and how it can work for us or how it can work against us," she said.

Pierce said she felt incredibly honored to be recognized by her peers, especially because so many great writers have come from and been inspired by the Magnolia State. She also expressed appreciation to students in the creative writing courses she teaches.

"Teaching writing and writing my own works: they're inextricably connected, and they feed one another really well," she said. "Teaching gives me a constant reminder of what I value in poetry, what I need to be pursuing in my own writing, and I think my students appreciate knowing that I'm trying to do my best creative work alongside them."

Pierce emphasized that poetry and literature remain as relevant in modern society as they were for past generations.

"Poetry, like any art, is one of the things that teaches us to be human," Pierce said. "In reading literature, we learn how to connect with other people and become more human ourselves."

One key to inspiring poetry appreciation in future generations is to make the art form constantly accessible to children as they get through school, culminating in postsecondary education, she said.

"The importance of reading can't be overemphasized. It's part of what college is about -- to be reading, to be experiencing worlds outside of our own," Pierce said.

She has begun work on a third collection of poems, which will focus on a tornado and individuals' response to it.

In addition to Pierce's two full-length collections, she also released a cut chapbook in 2004. Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, Mississippi Review and The Best American Poetry, among others.

Pierce has taught at MSU since 2007. Prior to receiving her doctorate from the University of Missouri, Pierce completed her master of fine arts at Ohio State University and her bachelor's at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.

Learn more about Pierce and her work at http://www.catherinepierce.net.

Leah Barbour | University Relations

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